Tuesday, January 4, 2011

January 4, 2006: Young's run

PASADENA, Calif. - There were two decisions at play here. The first was whether to go for it on fourth down. Needing two yards to clinch their second straight national championship, leading the Rose Bowl 38-33 with just over two minutes to play, USC coach Pete Carroll decided to send his historically explosive offense out on the field to try to get a first down.

That decision seemed like a smart one. They could have punted, sure, but it would have been a likely touchback, giving Texas the ball at the 20 with two minutes to play. And the way Vince Young had been playing all night ... no, the Trojans had to go for it. Besides, if they couldn't get two yards, did they really deserve the title?

The second decision was how to go for it. Twice earlier in the game, the Trojans had run a play on short yardage for running back LenDale White, converting both times, with both conversions eventually leading to touchdowns. It was risky to try that play again, considering Texas would probably expect it. It was doubly risky because it meant Reggie Bush, the Heisman Trophy winner, one of the most explosive college football players in a decade, would be spending the most important play of the season standing on the bench watching.

The Trojans ran the play, an inside handoff to White. The Longhorns sniffed it out, stopping him short. They were 56 yards from a national championship when Vince Young trotted back out onto the field for the final drive of his college career.

Young had already done enough in the 2006 Rose Bowl to etch his name permanently in the book of Texas legends. He was on his way to a game where he would pass for 267 yards and rush for 200, and he already had two rushing touchdowns in the game. On the Longhorns' previous drive, Young accounted for all 69 yards of offense, running the ball in himself to cut the deficit to five. Now, it was his turn to shine again.

The last drive didn't go as smoothly for Young and Texas as the previous one had. Facing a third-and-12 early in the drive, Texas got a first down with the help of a USC facemask penalty. The Longhorns got as far as the USC 14 before bogging down, eventually facing a fourth down. This time, USC needed to get a fourth down stop to win its second straight national title. This time, there was no decision to be made for Texas: it was obvious that Vince Young would either win it or lose it for the Longhorns.

Young took the shotgun snap and dropped back, looking for his receivers. With nobody open, he saw nobody between him and the front corner of the end zone. He tucked the ball under and ran. Seeing what was happening, the USC defenders scrambled to get him, but nobody was beating Young to that corner. He ran past the Trojan defenders, through the corner of the end zone, and into college football history.

One note about this video: It was the final touchdown call in the career of legendary college football announcer Keith Jackson. For decades, he was synonymous with college football, and you knew it was a big game if he was calling it. It was a perfect way for him to go out.

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